Smart bettors know that the Belmont Stakes is really like two different races. When there is a potential Triple Crown winner in the field then it is one of the premier sporting events in the country. It will be prominently featured on sports broadcasts, websites, magazines, and newspapers for the time leading up to the race, the broadcast of the race will be heavily watched, and betting volumes will be massive. When there is no Triple Crown potential, though, the the race barely registers nationally. Each of those two scenarios is very different, and it provides different challenges to handicappers. Here’s a look at some of those differences that can affect your betting:
When there is a chance at a Triple Crown…
Public betting volume is high – The Triple Crown is one of those sporting events that captures the imagination of every sports fan no matter whether they care about horse racing or not. Winning the Triple Crown is so rare and so difficult – and many of the past winners are so iconic – that people are drawn to watch whenever there is the potential. From 1978 when the last Triple Crown was won by Affirmed to 2011 there were 11 different horses that came to the Belmont with a shot at winning it all. None did, but their races all had two things in common – the betting volume was particularly high, and the potential Triple Crown superstars were all bet down to a level much lower than they would otherwise have been if they were running n the race without so much on the line. Because the betting volume is so high and so focused in one place in these cases you really need to be careful when thinking about value. If you like the chances of the horse with a shot at history then you have to accept a comically low price. That means when betting you can’t afford to cover a lot of horses in the race, and you have to accept that you aren’t going to make a big return if you are right.
Experts crawl out of the woodwork – Horse racing doesn’t typically get a lot of coverage. The coverage increases exponentially during any Triple Crown season – especially in advance of the Derby. When a Triple Crown is on the line, though, suddenly everyone is writing or talking about the horse and the race, and everyone is an expert. Most of those people, of course, have very little meaningful knowledge of horse racing, so their opinions may sound okay, but they aren’t worth anything at all. You need to be very careful to only trust reputable, well researched opinions when you are making your betting decisions when the Triple Crown is on the line.
Crowd size and noise become a factor – When there is a shot at history the attendance at the track is massive. The crowd the horses will face down the stretch is huge and very loud – especially if the favorite has a shot at the win. That can be an issue for some horses – especially if they haven’t already been exposed to the craziness of the crowd at the Kentucky Derby.
Better chance of a clean trip – Bettors need to consider that other jockeys certainly aren’t going to let a horse win the Triple Crown easily. In fact, every other jockey would like nothing more than to be the one who ends the dream. What no jockey wants, though, is to be the guy who interfered with the potential Triple Crown winner and caused a controversy. The favorite will have a lot of challenges they have to overcome, but the chances are pretty solid that they are going to be able to enjoy a reasonably clean trip.
When there is no chance at a Triple Crown…
Fields generally more wide open – When there is no Triple Crown potential the races are often very wide open. For starters, there is a chance that there are two Triple Crown winners in the field, so in that case there are two horses that have already proven themselves capable of winning here. On top of that, there is no reason at all for other owners and trainers to fear any horses in the field, so they are more likely to take a shot and try to win. More than most races any horse can win this race at any time, but that’s even more true when there is not a Triple Crown on the line.
Public not as tuned in – When there is no Triple Crown potential the public really doesn’t engage with the Belmont. That’s especially true when the Triple Crown hasn’t been particularly compelling so far, ad when there isn’t any horses that seem to be world class. When the public isn’t as captivated by the race the betting action isn’t going to be as crazy and lopsided, and value isn’t as hard to find.